Content warning: The following article mentions suicide statistics


Addie Gleason

There are hundreds of labels within the LGBTQ community, much lacking proper representation.

Tired eyes absorb the blue light of my phone as my mind becomes jumbled, crafting a mental Venn diagram of labels. Overlapping, colliding, adding, erasing. This Venn diagram symbolized a world of possibilities to me, and there was practically a label for any sexuality or gender. But how practical would these labels actually be?

Despite more significant advancements in LGBTQ rights, there are still countless more minor issues hindering efforts to create safer communities. Namely, the pressure to fall under a label that society deems well-known and “convenient.” With hundreds of sexuality and gender labels overlapping and colliding, it isn’t always easy to “pick” the right one. However, lately, the LGBTQ community has seen an increasing pressure to conform to societal standards, to make our existence easier for others to understand. This expectation is unrealistic and creates even larger pressure in an already confusing process, influencing LGBTQ people to label themselves in an easily-understood way when there shouldn’t be pressure to identify with any label in the first place.

Although most people are familiar with umbrella terms like queer or transgender, there are hundreds more terms to accurately describe a person’s sexuality or gender. And in the end, some people simply do not wish to label themselves. While labels are essential to some people, they also create “boxes” that others try to fit the LGBTQ community into. Identity is constantly evolving, and one — often inaccurate — dictionary definition can’t describe subjects as complex as sexuality and gender. Unfortunately, even with an immeasurable amount of resources available to learn about these identities, a vast majority of the population still lacks education, whether it be about stereotypes, identity or proper terminology.

Even numerous people who deem themselves “accepting” of the LGBTQ community seem to be uninformed about the basics of standard terms. Too often, LGBTQ people find themselves adjusting their identities and pronouns to conform to standards and unspoken rules predetermined by society: “Only use labels that are easy to comprehend. Take it upon yourself to educate anyone who doesn’t understand your identity. Change your identity to make my life easier.”

Due to the absence of proper education on LGBTQ issues in health classes and a lack of representation in core learning spaces, health curriculums tend to showcase familiar labels exclusively. Health classes are set up to educate all students, but fail to represent the LGBTQ community. A recent Florida bill commonly referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by various media sources aims to restrict LGBTQ curriculum that’s deemed “not age-appropriate.” This bill contains vague language, making it harder to determine the line between legal and illegal teachings. It also removes a school’s right to teach about any label or identity — let alone less-known labels or those who choose no label. This begs the question, how is further progress supposed to be made when lawmakers actively take away fundamental rights?

Discrimination against LGBTQ youth often has detrimental effects, and a large portion of discrimination is attributed to disrespecting pronouns and identity. In a 2020 Trevor Project national survey, only 20% of nonbinary and transgender youth reported having their pronouns respected by most people in their lives. The same study found that 28% of transgender and nonbinary youth who reported that no people respect their pronouns have attempted suicide. This is compared to 12% of transgender and nonbinary youth who reported that most people respect their pronouns.

Society frequently disregards these actions, noticing the issue yet watching as bystanders with little urge to become more accepting. To achieve a genuinely accepting society, we must let go of the notion that identity is only acceptable if it’s considered easy to understand. We are living in a society where people are much more willing to push LGBTQ youth to suicide rather than respecting their pronouns and identity.

Rather than ostracizing people into categories of “right” and “wrong,” we must have the decency to provide others with respect. This is an issue that transcends various beliefs and viewpoints. Whether a person is cisgender, heterosexual or LGBTQ, identity is a core part of being human. It’s time we make an effort to understand one another instead of waiting for a more convenient option to come along.